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GPs running risk of hepatitis

Ministers' plans to extend choice in primary care may harm continuity of care and will increasingly put GPs in difficult situations with patients, GPs are warning.

In a Government-backed document on the impact of the proposals, GPs also argue the changes spell the end of their gatekeeper role and could lead to spiralling NHS costs.

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said increasing patient choice could see GPs having to 'tread gently' when faced with more

'eccentric and possibly unsafe' patient requests. Patients may also choose 'less safe, less evidence-based' treatments from other providers, he added.

In an essay for the New Health Network, Dr Dixon, a GP in Devon, said new pro-viders needed to be educated in the gatekeeper role.

'The problem with any great idea is there are dangers. The same goes for patient choice. There's no harm in aiming for the ideal but we must test the water as we go.'

Dr Tom Coffey, a GP in south London and chair of the New Health Network, said more GPs were needed for

extra choice to work and the Government had to win GPs' support for e-booking and electronic records.

'I see this as a fantastic opportunity but patient choice will depend on GPs being trained and believing that new IT systems make their jobs easier,' he said.

GPC chair Dr John Chis-holm warned in his speech to the BMA's annual representatives meeting last week that new providers of care had to add value 'rather than imperilling continuity and undermining patient satisfaction'.

lComment, page 21

By Ian Cameron

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